50@50: TEDxFIU becomes one of university’s marquee events


To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News is sharing 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ series. Below is a behind-the-scenes look at the prep work that went into the inaugural TEDxFIU event in 2012.

With the dream of elevating FIU to the national stage, former FIU Magazine Editor Deborah O’Neil and Marketing Director Eduardo Merille set out to find a way to both showcase the university and the people who make it great.

“We wanted to show the world how we were ‘Worlds Ahead,’” O’Neil said. “How do we share the stories of FIU with a broader audience?”

O’Neil and Merille decided TEDxFIU – an event featuring alumni, faculty and students sharing their ideas, their stories and their triumphs – would be the ideal way to accomplish both of those goals.

In the lead up to the inaugural event in 2012, the co-founders had no idea how the event would be received. But it quickly became apparent that the university community fully embraced the FIU-produced event based on TED –a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, in the form of short, powerful talks.

Nearly 600 people packed the GC Ballrooms for the inaugural TEDxFIU event, featuring eight speakers whose topics ranged from space exploration and solar energy to new models for medical education.

By the end of the night, there were three standing ovations and a buzz amongst the crowd as they left the building.

“TEDxFIU is ultimately a celebration of everything we do well. It showcases the spirit and the personality of our institution,” O’Neil said. “The people that we put on that stage are all courageous, innovative and entrepreneurial. And they have achieved so much, often in spite of odds that would suggest they would not get as far as they did.”

The event has grown in popularity and has become a hot ticket for the university community. In 2014, tickets for TEDxFIU: Fearless Journey sold out within a few hours.

Watch parties are held in the GC Pit at Modesto A. Maidique Campus and the Wolfe Center at Biscayne Bay Campus. People from all over the world can also watch online via live stream at TEDxFIU.com.

On YouTube, many of the talks and performances from TEDxFIU have been viewed thousands of times from people. Tony Succar’s Latin tribute to Michael Jackson during the inaugural event in 2012 has more than 376,000 views while John Dufresne’s talk on how to write a story in 2014 has received more than 50,000.

This year’s TEDxFIU event, Always Forward, will be held at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center (WPAC) on Thursday, Nov. 5. The event will feature talks from speakers such as Ebola fighter Dr. Aileen Marty, children’s advocate Nelson Hincapie and a musical performance from hip hop artist Reggie Baril.

Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

For more information or to see speakers from previous years, visit TEDxFIU.com.